Few days ago, a rural school in Guatemala opened a package of new equipment. It could have been a box of pencils and paper, or new textbooks. But this was different. Maybe more different than any of us knew. This was a computer and projector, along with whatever it takes to give the school internet access. Pencils, books…computers, in and of themselves, are meaningless. They are only tools. It is the things they connect us to that are meaningful and even profound: language, math, research, lesson plans, understanding, creativity, and more important this day…each other.
Emma, founder of TINFA and fluent in Spanish, was doing the talking for four of us in Seattle. On the computer’s screen, we saw that we were far outnumbered in Guatemala by a room full of teachers, parents and students. Lit brightly by hot sunshine coming through windows near its high ceiling, the classroom we saw was a clean pale green with rows of desks and chairs. Smiling enthusiastically, Cesar (TINFA’s dedicated agent in Guatemala) introduced us to the school’s director. Next we heard from a teacher. On behalf of their PTA, a father expressed his thanks. And finally a student said hello. When Emma asked after the red shirts and blouses many of the adults were wearing, we learned that red is the color that identifies the teachers in this village. My Spanish is marginal, but i kept hearing the word “equipo.” It translates not only as “equipment” but also means “team.” We all waved, smiled and applauded each other several times. By all appearances, the school's inaugural “test flight” of this tool was a successful step in an exciting direction full of potential.
After closing the Skype connection, Emma explained that a few months earlier they had toured several village schools. They chose to work with this one based on the teachers’ apparent initiative and self-direction. Feeling that anything more than a “light touch” would be arrogant, TINFA provides the tool and instructs only how to use it…NOT what to build with it. Wisely, they respect that the teachers, students and villagers know best how to serve themselves…with the tools they have. They now have a modern, powerful tool with which we share their hopes. Bravo!